Stories From Coochiemudlo Island – 2

Coochiemudlo Island as seen from Victoria Point
Coochiemudlo Island as seen from Victoria Point

Edward Field (‘Ted’) Jones:

‘The first re-enactment of Matthew Flinders’ landing took place in 1981, and was an utter disaster, at least to my way of thinking, when the “Norfolk” ‘s volunteer crew of Coochie residents were unable to keep stroke with their oars, and were consequently late for the sextant reading. Next year, the locals were replaced by Cadets from the Naval Reserve T.S.Norfolk, who have managed to keep the proceedings on an even keel ever since.

 ‘With succeeding years, and increasing support from the local Progress Association, the ceremony has continued to grow in importance for Coochie. Today, on a Sunday near to July 19th, depending on the tides, hundreds of visitors flock to the island for a pleasant day of history, fun, and outdoor entertainment.’

Reference: Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection

Rosemary Opala: (Recalling the tale of Gerald Elliot’s “African Queen”):

‘It was another difficult engine to start. On one occasion Gerald went to the mainland to pick up a 200 litre drum of petrol. The drum was loaded into his leaky dinghy, which he commenced towing back to Coochie behind his launch. Unfortunately the dinghy began filling with water and when Gerald jumped into it to try to rectify the situation, his extra weight sent the dinghy under and he was left holding onto the drum while the “African Queen” sailed off “Mary Celeste” style!  Only when it sideswiped the jetty did locals realise that something was wrong, and a rescue party organised for the hapless Gerald.’

Reference: Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection

Joan Bland:

‘In 1919, Phillip Forrest who owned a small farm cottage on Coochiemudlo established Doug, then 22 years of age and Eric Gordon, another young soldier who had been wounded, on the farm as share farmers to help with their convalescence. Eric left soon after due to the loneliness of their solitary life there, so Doug set about farming on his own – an occupation he was to pursue on the island for the next 41 years.

‘Like everyone who had managed to live through the horrors of battle during the war, his experiences had left him extremely traumatised – physically, mentally, and emotionally. The metal plate at the back of his head caused him much pain, and pieces of shrapnel in his legs would surface through his skin for years afterwards. But it was the emotional and mental trauma he suffered, which were hardest for him to endure.

‘In 1921, Doug married Beatrice Mary Colburn a member of an old Victoria Point farming family. Together, they set about establishing their farm and their family. Doug was tough minded, a hard worker, and impatient with people. His wife, Mary, was more down to earth, had a wonderful sense of humour, and became a tireless worker for the CWA (Country Women’s Association).

Doug and Mary Morton with Bonnie

Doug and Mary Morton with Bonnie

‘There was no regular water supply on Coochiemudlo until a pipeline from the mainland was laid in September 1971. All crops on the island had to be hand watered, using kerosene tins of water hauled from wells. All ploughing, harrowing, and scuffling was undertaken using a draught horse. The crops they farmed included custard apples Navel oranges, Ripley pineapples, and Lady Finger bananas. The Morton farm on Coochiemudlo Island became a showpiece of Moreton Bay. Doug and Mary planted avenues of trees; roads were dug, levelled and graded with their own hands. In 1941 Doug and Mary Morton set up the island’s first tourist venture, including a jetty and trolley railway and sold fruit salad and cream and Devonshire teas on their farm. Mary had established tearooms underneath the farmhouse and a small produce shop, for day visitors who called from the Wednesday and Sunday tourist boats. Here they sold tropical fruits flowers and fresh vegetables to the day-trippers.

‘In all, Doug built five jetties during his 41 years of residence on the island. Doug also built with his own hands a sister jetty on Victoria point to allow access for his boats carrying their farm produce between the island and the mainland. Doug also constructed a six-hole golf course on the western flats.

Doug Morton's jetty at Victoria Point

Doug Morton’s jetty at Victoria Point

‘Doug and Mary eventually retired firstly to Karragarra Island and later to Cleveland. Doug passed away in 1980 and Mary in 1989.The residents of Coochiemudlo Island honoured the Morton family and their contributions to the island by the declaration of a reserve in their name on the high Western sector of the island.’

Reference: WWI Heroes of the Redlands (unpublished at this time)

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